Saudi Arabia, while giving Washington, Berlin and London three early warnings of an impending Al Qaeda -Yemen airborne terror offensive, was itself deeply immersed in organizing, mustering bombers and arming Al Qaeda-Iraq for its biggest operation in the Middle East – the storm of violence which swept Baghdad Tuesday, Nov. 2 and left some 130 dead and 300 injured, mostly Shiites.
The New York Times reported Saturday that the Saudis tipped Washington off about an impending al Qaeda attack on the US and West Europe five months in advance. This non-specific warning caused Washington to put Europe, though not the United States, on an unexplained terror alert.
On Oct. 9, three weeks before the two parcels were intercepted, Saudi intelligence warned the US that Al Qaeda in Yemen had decided on Oct. 6 to use one or two aircraft for an attack on the United States or Europe. No more details were provided this time either.
Then, on Oct. 28, the third alert from Saudi intelligence specified that explosive parcels were about to be mailed from Yemen aboard cargo planes heading west. This tip-off precipitated a frantic two-day search of all planes carrying freight from Yemen to the US, Europe and the Persian Gulf and led to the discovery of the two undetonated explosive packages aboard UPS and Fedex planes.
German explosives experts explained to Der Spiegel how the mechanisms worked and how they could have blown the cargo planes up in midflight had they exploded. They described the device discovered at the British East Midlands airport as being armed with a timer geared to a light-emitting diode for activating an acid igniter in a plastic syringe that was to have detonated the PETN explosive material packed in the photocopier's ink cartridge.
This information prompted the comment by French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux Thursday, Nov. 4 that one of the two mail bombs from Yemen was defused just 17 minutes before it was set to explode.
According to the German weekly, the Dubai package consisted of four separate parcels in one container, rigged with a mechanism similar to the one found in the UK.
Neither publication disclosed the other half of Riyadh's Al Qaeda engagement.
debkafile's intelligence sources can reveal exclusively that while faithfully keeping Washington abreast of the terrorists' plots against the West, Saudi rulers were busy in their own backyards setting them a different mission.
Al Qaeda in Iraq was assigned to work with the Sunni Awakening Council leaders, the very same ones who rallied to the American flag in 2007 and 2008 and helped make the Petraeus surge policy against the terrorists a success, were now willing to join forces with AQI to give the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki a hiding and curb the spread of Iranian and Shiite domination throughout Iraq.
Last Tuesday, Al Qaeda used a score of suicide bomb and booby-trapped vehicles, roadside and sticky bombs, its gunmen shooting RPGs and automatic rifles, to plunge Baghdad, especially the Shiite districts, into bloody mayhem. The message to the Shiite prime minister was that if he ventured to establish a pro-Tehran Shiite government in Baghdad, mass carnage would beset and undermine his regime akin to the 2004-2006 waves of violence in which tens of thousands of Iraqi Shiites lost their lives.
Saudi King Abdullah also had a personal score to settle.
Seven months after his rival Iyad Alawi carried Iraq's general election, Al-Maliki is still in place as interim prime minister with no visible way out of the political crisis in Baghdad. In mid-October, the king offered to sponsor an Iraqi national reconciliation conference to discuss an "Arab solution" to the crisis in place of deals promoted by the US or Iran. Al-Maliki spurned the Saudi invitation to attend and Abdullah's plan fell through.
Since then, while tipping off Washington about the Al Qaeda-Yemen air package plot, Saudi intelligence was also hard at work getting the Al Qaeda-Iraqi Sunni tribal chiefs alliance set for its onslaught on Baghdad.
Our counter-terror sources comment that the punishment inflicted on the Iraqi capital last week was bigger in scale than even the terrorist attacks suffered by Mumbai exactly two years ago, to whose victims President Barack Obama paid tribute Saturday, Nov. 6, on the first leg of his Asian tour.